The following contains spoilers for Prey, currently streaming on Hulu.
Like the other movies in the predator franchise — or indeed any action movie — prey needs to pull out all the stops for its finale. The franchise sets a reasonably high standard on that front, and tends to do better whenever it injects sufficient excitement and originality into the last twenty minutes or so. The original 1987 predator, for example, stood out from its contemporaries in part because it made its hero outthink the monster, rather than simply pound it into submission. Similarly, its fair-to-middling sequel still earned its share of fans thanks to the now-iconic late-inning shot of a Xenomorph skull amid its Predators’ trophies.
That’s the competition prey is up against. When even a second-tier movie in the franchise can conjure some genuine surprises for its final reel, the margin for error is small. This is especially the case with a film as high-minded as this one, that wants to elevate the concept to something approaching art. prey could do everything it wanted to, but if it dropped the ball at the end, no one would remember. It’s easy enough to determine who wins in that scenario — the predator movies have never been shy about the outcome of their finales — but the details are what makes it a hit or a miss.
The original predator was conceived as a mash-up between ’80s action movies like Rambo and horror movies like alien. Its squad of ubermenschen commandos essentially acted like the victims in a slasher movie: going down one by one until only one of them — Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch — was left alive. He found a way to outsmart the monster in the climactic battle, in an active emulation of the “final girl” cliché from a thousand horror movies before it.
prey updates the concept for the new millennium, pulling more from survival horror films like The Descent and The Hills Have Eyes than slasher movies of the Friday the 13th variety. Yet it still needs to follow the pattern by providing a number of victims for the Predator to slaughter before its heroine Naru can find a way to get the better of it. That includes members of her tribe — who have a hard time believing her talk of invisible monsters in the woods — as well as the white, French fur traders whom the Predator ultimately kills with their own traps.
That brings it down to Naru, whom the trappers used as bait along with her wounded brother before they effected an escape. It leads to an extended pursuit sequence, in which she picks up a number of key pieces of information in rapid detail. That includes how to use the trappers’ firearms, the secrets of some of the Predator’s tech, and the orange flower that lowers her body temperature to hide from its infrared vision. Timely aid from her dog helps too, as does her doomed brother who aids her in wounding the alien invader before it kills him.
All of which exists just to give her a fighting chance in the finale, where — like Dutch — she’s prepared a trap for the monster. With her heat signature hidden, she engages in a series of hit-and-run attacks, which claim its right arm and one of its eyes. Finally, she induces it into a bog that holds it in place, then turns its own weapons against it by aiming its targeting helmet at the creature’s own head.
It draws open parallels to Schwarzenegger’s epic duel in the first film, complete with a few quoted lines and a last-minute bit of inspiration that seals the deal for Naru. But it finds a way to do so on its own terms, telling the story it wants to rather than just emulating what came before. It’s the capper to an impressive movie, and part of why prey is already being talked about as one the franchise’s very best.
Prey is currently streaming on Hulu.